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Mars InSight lander marks crucial mission milestone

The Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), located on the robotic arm of NASA's InSight lander, took this picture of the Martian surface on Nov. 26, 2018.
The Instrument Deployment Camera, located on the robotic arm of NASA's InSight lander, took this picture of the Martian surface on Nov. 26. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars InSight lander, which touched down on the red planet on Monday, has successfully deployed its solar panels and transmitted its first image from the spacecraft's Instrument Deployment Camera, located on the lander's robotic arm.

Why it matters: For InSight to complete its mission of drilling deep into the interior of Mars, it needs energy to charge its batteries. The lander's mission could provide new insights into how Mars formed and evolved, which could shed light on Earth's history too.

  • InSight's two solar arrays are each 7 feet wide and capture enough of Mars' weak sunlight to keep the lander charged. "Even when dust covers the panels — what is likely to be a common occurrence on Mars — they should be able to provide at least 200 to 300 watts," NASA said in a press release.

What's next: During the next few days, scientists will use the spacecraft's robotic arm and attached camera to take pictures of the surface near the lander itself. This will help the team decide where to deploy the scientific instruments.

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